“What’s dangerous is to not evolve,” Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos once famously said.
Yet for every Amazon success story, there have been a thousand other brands spectacularly imploding over e-Commerce’s storied 20 year history – however bright their star once shone.
Backed by the likes of LVMH and Goldman Sachs, Boo.com went from being proclaimed as one of the coolest companies in Europe by Fortune magazine to bust, in the blink of an eye. Once hailed as the genre-defining pioneering online grocer, Webvan went from a USD1.2 billion valuation to liquidation, all in in under two years.
Poster children of the dot-com bubble, case studies of their rise and fall are regularly taught in business schools across the world today.
Contrast that with the continued longevity of the Amazon empire – a company whose secret has simply been its well-respected ability to not just adapt with the times, but to embrace change when survival calls for it.
So what lies in-store for the year ahead?
Projected as a USD2 trillion dollar industry in 2015 alone – here’s 5 key trends critical for e-Commerce success, trends which any business running a retail operation should definitely pay heed to.
THE WORLD IN YOUR HANDS – M-COMMERCE
Remember when the first commercial mobiles phones had just a singular function, and were such huge, unwieldy devices bulky that they could double-up as physical weapons? Those days are long gone.
The wonder-devices of today not just connect you to the world, but are also capable of seemingly a million other functions – with mobile commerce becoming such an explosively trending sector that growth outpaces desktop-based e-Commerce three to one.
Although retailers have increasingly made moves towards improving the mobile commerce experience, research has also highlighted that just 45% of shoppers are satisfied with the mobile shopping experience – there is definitely much scope available for improvement.
With the savvy consumer today demanding instant access to information at their fingertips, optimizing one’s mobile experience is thus paramount for retailers, for consumers dissatisfied with your offering will simply move on to the next competitor listed on their Google search results to satiate their online shopping fix.
Shape up, or ship out.
MOBILE PAYMENTS GOES MAINSTREAM
Expanding on the mobile theme even further, many industry experts have also predicted that 2015 might finally be the year where mobile payments finally makes a break through to prominence in e-Commerce.
In just a few short months, Apple Pay has already racked up over a million active users since its launch in October 2014; while Google reported a 50% increase in transactions, with new user sign-ups doubling for its Wallet application in the month after Apple Pay was released.
While not earth-shattering numbers (yet), a recent report by global consulting giant Deloitte has already predicted one in 20 smartphone owners making a mobile payment with their phone by the end of the year.
Gradually gaining acceptance within the mainstream, it appears we have approached the ‘tipping point’ where the improved ease, accessibility and understanding of mobile payments finally wins over the masses.
THE OMNICHANNEL EXPERIENCE
The factors of differentiation between brick-and-mortar stores and online retail operations are narrowing by the day. Consumers expect not just a cohesive, unified brand experience across channels, but also the ability to segment different parts of this singular buyer’s journey through multiple mediums.
Think scanning a QR code for discounts granted online whilst in-store, or the reverse of placing an order online while picking it up in-store.
Not too long ago, the engagement touch-points available to consumers were limited to face-to-face interaction, or at most a conversation over the phone. Today, from mobile apps to social media, from emails to live chat – consumers now have a dizzying multitude of options to not just interact with, but actively engage with a company.
Just as every positive interaction can be instantly publicized by a happy customer in seconds online, the reverse holds true. Every mistake or misstep can and will be similarly magnified a hundred-fold.
And with the multitude of problems that can occur in this industry, e-Commerce merchants in particular best take heed – to deliver the top-notch, seamlessly integrated omnichannel experience and communication the customer in 2015 absolutely demands.
Further bridging one of the traditional drawbacks of e-Commerce – the wait for delivery, same-day delivery service has been all the rage, and a major trend seriously changing the retail landscape from the ground-up.
Requiring tremendous resources, particularly for the massive supply chain infrastructure needed to make same-day delivery a reality, the big boys understandably have a major advantage here. Amazon for example has huge warehouses and fulfillment centers in 40 US cities, while eBay has tied up with the likes of Uber and lower-tech bike couriers to facilitate the same.
With that said, while once just the domain of the big e-Commerce players, even legacy brick-and-mortar retailers have similarly increasingly stepped up their game as well – with even renowned departmental chains such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s experimenting with same-day gratification in a bid to remain relevant.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the smaller boys though. Various options are available to close that gap in resources and funding. These include charging premiums for same-day service, limiting delivery areas to one’s localized market, and to work in tandem with fellow independent players in the ecosystem to tap on each other’s expertise and capabilities.
MARKETPLACES ARE HERE TO STAY
Particularly for smaller retailers, adequately responding to the omnichannel demands of today’s customers might not always be most easily achievable. The development and implementation of custom web stores can rack up considerable financial costs, not to mention even more costs associated with the technical maintenance of the web store.
Online marketplaces however, have provided a proven and efficient method for merchants to quickly establish a presence online, often at a fraction of the cost. Driven no doubt through massive investment by the big boys such as eBay, Amazon and Rakuten, retailers across the world have flocked to online marketplaces in droves, a trend that will continue well into 2015 and beyond.
The advantages are tremendous. These include the ability to not just reach a wider audience, but also easy international expansion to foreign markets, alongside smooth integration with a wide range of cloud-based services covering other crucial elements of running an e-Commerce operation such as inventory management or accounting.
As previously mentioned, today’s savvy customer demands one singular cohesive brand experience across platforms and communication channels.
And the easy accessibility and integration capabilities of marketplaces infinitely offers this, allowing for not just the automation of numerous time-saving processes, but also providing one with a truly holistic picture to make better business decisions in the long run.
There’s no doubt e-Commerce will continue its booming trajectory for the foreseeable future, with huge opportunities abound whether you’re a two-man online shop starting up in a home office, or a brick-and-mortar retailer with decades of history looking to establish a foothold in the new norm.
But not everyone will survive.
Success and failure will boil down to not just an accurate understanding, but embracement of the prevailing marketing conditions now – and these five trends in particular are key for the year ahead.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community